'I have no one but myself to blame': McKnight speaks as Crown pushes for 22.5-year sex assault sentence
Matthew McKnight and his mother walk out of court during a break in Edmonton on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. McKnight, 33, was accused of sexually assaulting 13 women ranging in age from 17 to 22 between 2010 and 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
EDMONTON -- Warning: this story contains disturbing details.
Crown prosecutors continued their push on Friday for a 22 1/2 year sentence for an Edmonton nightclub promoter convicted on five counts of sexual assault.
Matthew McKnight, 33, was accused of sexually assaulting 13 women ranging in age from 17 to 22 from 2010 until 2016, when he worked at Knoxville's Tavern.
In January, a jury convicted him on five of those counts after he had pleaded not guilty.
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Friday marks the seventh day of sentencing proceedings in Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench for what was initially scheduled to be a three-day hearing. Sentencing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on July 31.
McKnight addressed the court near the conclusion of the hearing that ran into Friday evening.
“I know that many people think me to be an unfeeling monster but that is not the case at all. My heart is bursting, and I feel like absolute garbage for making people feel that way,” he said. “While I stand by my testimony at this trial, I recognize that I have no one but myself to blame for the situation I find myself in.”
“In addition to losing my career, my home, my reputation, and my liberty over these last four years, I’ll now lose my freedom completely, and I am extremely repentant.”
Prosecutor Mark Huyser-Wierenga challenged the defence's sentencing argument of between just under five and nine years.
"Five rapes against five young women and the bottom line sentence that is proposed as fit and appropriate is less than five years," he questioned.
Huyser-Wierenga also argued that there's been no evidence detailing the psychology behind what he termed McKnight's "troubling pattern of abuse."
"We have no understanding of why Mr. McKnight raped five women over six years," he said.
"Hook up culture doesn’t involve raping people you’re hooking up with."
Huyser-Wierenga also challenged the defence's assertion that as a young, first-time offender McKnight had strong prospects of rehabilitation.
"Where's the evidence for that?"
He also noted that a 22 1/2 year sentence doesn't necessarily equate to the same amount of time in an institution given statutory release and parole regulations.
In earlier submissions, prosecutors told Judge Doreen Sulyma she has a "unique opportunity to denounce and deter" McKnight's crimes.
'A VENGEFUL SENTENCE'
In his sentencing submissions, defence lawyer Dino Bottos argued that the Crown had "lost perspective in this case."
"I've never been involved in a case where Crown and defence have been so far apart," Bottos said.
"Their submissions seem to be calling for a vengeful sentence," he said.
"Something that may make some people in this public feel good. It may quench their thirst for blood, however that's not how we sentence offenders in Canada."
Bottos presented six factors he says should mitigate McKnight's sentence, including what he termed the vigilante justice McKnight suffered in a 2016 beating from his cellmate at the Edmonton Remand Centre
McKnight required stitches and staples following the attack where he was punched to the ground and kicked multiple times in the head. He earlier told the court he fears for his safety while incarcerated.
The Crown has argued the beating should have no effect on the sentence, saying McKnight could've asked the guards for protection but didn't.
Bottos also noted what he called an "inordinate" amount of public condemnation as well as how McKnight was a first-time offender, had strong family support and had complied with his bail conditions for nearly four years.
"He's suffered far more than your average sex offender."
Bottos has also argued McKnight's five convictions should not all carry equal weight in sentencing.
"The subject, individual offender and society will have already learned a lesson from the first conviction and sanction, lessening the need to punish to the same degree with each subsequent sentence," he said.
"If you aggregate a series of major sexual assaults, if you aggregate a sentence of serious offences, that does crush a person and it’s in those circumstances that totality must be more carefully considered."
VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS
The court has heard McKnight met most of the women in bars and assaulted them at his apartment.
Four of McKnight's five victims have addressed the court with victim impact statements.
"You saw intoxication as an opportunity," one of the women told the court.
"My body didn’t feel like mine because I wasn’t in control," she said in her victim impact statement.
"I felt robbed, invaded, worthless and helpless."
The woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, said she remained silent about the attacks for years until hearing of other victims and going to the police.
"I stand here against sexual predators," she said. "I stand here so he can never do this to anyone else."
Others told the court they still suffer from anxiety, panic attacks and nightmares following the assaults.